until they change what is in themselves.

I’ve read this phrase in the Quran a number of times and it’s funny but I always thought it only referred to the oppressed and downtrodden.

But I attended a lecture a while back and a scholar made a good point. He said that no, this phrase applies to both a privileged status and a downtrodden one. Basically it also applies to people who are doing well–that God will not cause them to decline until they change what is in themselves–ie abandon the good qualities that made them successful in the first place.

The older I get the more truth I see in this phrase.

When I was younger, how the sympathy poured out of me when I saw people living in horrible conditions– until I got to know them and saw how sometimes they contributed to their own situation.

I used to babysit for a lady who claimed that her husband abused her. She had left him and was staying in a shelter but still going to work.

She nodded absently while I urged her to cut off all contact with her husband, for the sake of her children. 

But she wanted to reconcile.

She laid out her terms.

He agreed to none of them.

She went back to him anyways.

And I thought to myself that she’s either stupid, or I am in believing it was as bad as she said.

Oprah never talks openly about the people she’s helped that have disappointed her.

But I remember one show where she decided to give about three very poor families a leg up for a few months.

One lady, I think she was from Appalachia, I just remember that she was white, very skinny and had horrible teeth. She was in a desperate situation because her husband had become injured and couldn’t work and she was going to school to increase her job skills. At the end of the time period of help–she was remarkably better off!

But there was another lady who was a single mom, and used the money to buy stuff she hadn’t been able to afford. At one point her daughter said, “Can we get that?” or something, and she answered, “Of course dear, we’re not poor any more.” We never saw what happened to her at the end of the period of help!

The first lady was keen on changing her condition by changing what was in herself, the second lady accepted the handout and took it for granted, not realizing that it was a limited time offer, and if she didn’t change, then she’d be no better off.

And that’s just an economic example.

I know a lot of people reminisce about how much better things were when they were growing up. And I know I’m going to sound like a real geezer saying that, yes, in many ways things were better when I was growing up.

Even if you only look at the commercials we had back then!

They were full of ‘scientific’ sounding comparisons that ‘proved’ that Detergent A was better than Detergent B. Think about what that says about the people the commercial is targetting their sales pitch at.

News was a somber affair. It was meant to contain gravitas, not looney side piece human interest stories!

Even when I look at the creative writing journal I kept when I was in grade eight and thirteen years old, my vocabulary was quite impressive! Kids just don’t write like that any more!

Oh of course we had our vulgarities! But they weren’t ‘mainstream’. Mainstream society kept a level of sophistication and a civilised demeanor.

And governments paid their bills, living within their means!

That’s all gone. 

There is no question that God bestowed His favour on western countries at the time. He granted them prosperity and took it away from Muslim countries!

He gave western countries rulers who tried to be just and rule their people well, and He allowed dictators to take control of Muslim lands.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that the ruler of a people is a reflection of the people. 

And boy was he right!

For a corrupt ruler to gain control over a people, he has to have the support of a number of people.  And corruption is rampant in Muslim countries and African countries.

But I wonder if that isn’t changing with the Arab spring.

Say what you want about Hezbollah and goodness knows I’m no fan, but when the Lebanon war was finished their people were out there writing cheques to compensate people for the destruction of their property and help them rebuild!

Folks in America, after Katrina, noticed it and wondered why FEMA couldn’t be more efficient. How many billions of dollars were spent on New Orleans???

Where did it all go???

If the government had done the same, given each household a lump sum to use towards rebuilding, they would have saved a ton of money and New Orleans would have been rebuilt much faster–I believe!

I remember how instead they put the poor and homeless up in fancy hotels for a time period and I screamed at my T.V. set, “You idiots! Why don’t you give that money you’d spend on the Crowne Plaza, to the people living there???” And cynical me, I thought the guy in charge of the funds must know the guy in charge of the hotels. They’re just divvying up a piece of the pie!

And even the news media commented on the corruption of the authorities as to how the money was spent.

In the past, Canada was always known for being a fair and balanced society. Championing human rights all over the globe. It was one of the things I was most proud of, being Canadian.

But with our new leader, Steven Harper, boy have we taken many steps backward! Recently our government was only one of five in the world that refused to condemn the Israeli government’s settlement expansion. The other four countries were the U.S. (no surprise) and a few little countries in the South Pacific.

It does not bode well for America or Canada.

As the Arabs are continuing their spring uprising, it seems to me that the west is sinking the other way.

Perhaps God is finally changing the condition of the Arab people because they are changing something within themselves.

It might be too soon to say.

I have very little hope for Pakistan–my land of birth!

They’re ruled by a crook–Zardari, husband of the late Benazir Bhutto–another crook, both of whom have syphoned untold amounts of wealth from Pakistan into off-shore bank accounts.

Zardari doesn’t give a hang about the people suffering under his rule, and as sorry as I feel for them, nothing will change until the people change what is in themselves.

But yesterday I had my second glimmer of hope. (the first was that wonderful community in Oklahoma!)

I was invited to another Muslim gig.

This was a Muslim school in Mississauga where they asked me to come in and do a presentation for the kindergarten to grade two’s.

And there was some mention about a session for the women.

Sure, sure, I said. I’ll do that one for free, thinking I’d be talking to a handful of housewives interested in promoting literacy in their kids.


There were about a hundred and fifty women, many of them Pakistani, and others who were taking in the session on line!!!

And they were all wearing hijab (or niqab) and intent on LEARNING!!!! Islam, and other knowledge too!

I have never been to an Islamic school where they were as intent on teaching the MOTHERS as they were on teaching the kids!


These were no ignorant immigrant women! These were highly refined, super motivated seekers of knowledge!

Masha Allah!

They put their money where their mouths were and supported this institution!

And the institution itself was not run down, but aesthetically beautiful and more importantly it was WELL-ORGANIZED!

The programs were punctual!

Oh, it was NOT your typical Islamic school, not by a long shot!

It makes my heart sing to see people so dedicated to learning, to changing the next generation for the better!

And when I got up to talk, indeed giving them tips on how to instill a love of learning in their kids and a joy of reading, these women soaked up every word!

And some of them even emailed me afterwards telling me how inspiring they’d found my little talk. (One lady had viewed it online from Columbo, Sri Lanka! I couldn’t help wondering what time in the middle of the night she’d stayed up to do so!)

May this be the beginning of God changing the condition of Muslims–because it seems to me that many Muslims are definitely changing what’s within themselves!